The Curious Art of Leading People On and Friendzoning
A few years ago, I was in love with a girl - we’ll call her Sophia*.
I personally don’t think you can be in love with someone if they don’t share similar feelings, so I’m actually going to backtrack and say - probably more accurately - that I was infatuated with her.
We became fast friends, and to this day I have a hard time believing that anyone could be friends with Sophia and not fall in love with her. She was fucking funny. She wasn’t the class clown, or the loudest person at a party, but she was quietly observant and would drop certain one liners that had my friends and I clutching our stomachs with tears in our eyes.
Sophia was a perfect blend of adventurous and mischievous, paired with reserve and vulnerability. She was affectionate, and mysterious, and to top it all of she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.
I mean, truly beautiful.
Maybe it’s a hard thing to explain to someone who’s straight, but for people who are bisexual, I feel like our same-gender loves are always the ones that hit hardest and deepest. I respected Sophia, I admired her, I was jealous of her, I wanted to kiss her, I wanted to sleep with her, I wanted her clothes…it was a curious mix of all the complicated feelings someone can possess.
But Sophia was straight, so I never told her this.
Until one night, at my apartment over a glass of red wine, Sophia confessed to me that she thought she might be gay.
“What?” I had asked, with my heart nearly bursting through my chest.
“I don't know,” she had said softly, pulling up her stockings. “I know I’m attracted to men, but I don’t think it’s the same way I’m attracted to women. Like I can find a guy hot, but for example, Blair in Gossip Girl…I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so beautiful. I think about her in a completely different way.”
I took a few sips of my drink and tried to think of what to say next.
“Blair is really beautiful,” I said.
Fuck, say something impactful, Shannon.
“I just don’t think I could imagine myself holding hands with a girl though, or taking her out to dinner, you know?” She continued. “I mean…what is it like for you?”
“Well…I used to think the same thing,” I started, “But I think a lot of that is socialization, you know? Out of every 100 guys I see, I want to go out to dinner with and kiss 20 of them. And out of 100 girls I see, I’ll only want to do that with one of them. But that one girl…I feel the exact same - sometimes even more - for her than I do a guy.”
We talked more, and drank, and smoked a few cigarettes. And a week later, after more talking and drinking and spending time at each other’s apartments, we did something that most friends don’t do. If you catch my drift.
Sophia ended up moving back home a few weeks after, which really devastated me, but we still kept in contact, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to get messages like “I’m bored and want to make out with someone…wish you were here” from her.
We would text, and send photos, and flirt with each other and allude to the night we had spent together, and make plans to see each other again.
After a couple months of this, I confessed my feelings to her - clear that I liked her as more than a friend. That I didn’t want to be just her friend anymore. I wanted more.
And she let me know a couple of days later that she had never felt that way about me.
To put it mildly, I was gutted.
Looking back now, I realize that I had put the cart before the horse. I fell rapidly into infatuation without waiting for her to catch up. I assumed her curiosity was reciprocation. I thought her flirtations were confirmation of interest - serious interest.
It was the first time in my life I felt really lead on. To be crass about it, normally by the time you’re in contact with someone’s genitals, it’s pretty much a given that they’re into you romantically (or at least sexually).
But Sophia told me that she always just saw me as a friend, nothing more.
I remember sitting there after reading what she wrote and being, above all else, incredibly confused. Was she straight? Was I just an experiment? Was I horrible in bed? Maybe she was kidding and she’s only attracted to men? Or maybe she was in fact gay, or bisexual, but she just didn’t like what I was putting out. Also maybe I’m hideously ugly, and I’m horrible in bed.
The options were endless, and most of the ones I brainstormed were negative.
We drifted apart, of course, and I spent the next few years assuming she was living a beautiful, straight life, just out in the world being gorgeous and perfect and accumulating devoted friends and fans along the way.
Until a couple of months ago, when I went to check her Facebook page, and saw that she was dating a woman.
Huh, how interesting I thought, somewhat bitterly. Maybe she was gay this entire time, and she just didn’t like me?
As I do with all things in life, I took something (that happened five years ago) very personally.
After reflecting on it, I came to the realization that I happened to meet Sophia when she was…curious. I look at Past Shannon, expecting this girl to love her back, and I’m disappointed in myself. Sophia didn’t owe me anything. And for me to deliver an ultimatum of essentially “either be my girlfriend, or I can’t be friends with you” puts a sour taste in my mouth today.
So I reached out to her, congratulated her on coming out, and left it at that. I still think of her in the highest regard - and damn if her girlfriend isn’t lucky.
But I was still left pondering. Not about Sophia, but about the feeling of being led on.
Sophia essentially friend-zoned me, and when we hear about this happening, it’s usually women friend-zoning men (and men being majorly butthurt about this).
So take a look at the above meme (haha, do you think teachers in the year 2030 will be saying this to their class?)
I used to look at this meme and roll my eyes. Truth be told, I still do. I wasn’t trying to use Sophia for sex - but in terms of this meme I would fall in the camp of the man.
So where’s the difference? When a man wants more than just a friendship with a woman…Is it ‘be friends with me or be nothing’? Is it ‘have sex with me or be nothing’? Where do most friend zones draw the line, and what constitutes it?
The worst part is, I’ve led people on before myself. I don’t think anyone (aside from sociopaths or someone of the kind) will do this intentionally, but it just happens.
Sometimes I lead guys on because I’m not attracted to them, but I value their friendship and I’m afraid revealing my lack of physical attraction will lead to them cutting me off. Sometimes I’m attracted to someone, but I’m not positive I want to date them, so I’ll lead them on so I can buy myself some time to figure it out on my own timeline. And, the thing I really need to reign in the most, is that I’m a horrible flirt who will say raunchy, suggestive things to everyone from my neighbor, to my waiter, to my boss.
It’s my mercurial tendencies! I’m a Gemini!
So who is in the right? I think we can all agree today that the fault of rape (to take it to a super real, very turbulent subject for a second) is with the rapist. But we can all agree too, that even though rapists cause rape, it’s responsible when women take proactive steps to try and keep themselves out of situations that might be dangerous to them.
And now to take it back down to a blog-post worthy topic, let’s apply that to friendzones.
Was it Sophia’s responsibility to not send me flirtatious texts if she wasn’t romantically interested in me? Was it my fault to demand romantic feelings from her when she never said she had them herself?
I’ve been on both sides of the equation and I still don’t know what the answer is.
And I think for a lot of people who are friendzoned, it stings in a way where you almost wish you could take it to court.
Your Honor! I present the following: a text message from her saying that she wanted to kiss me. An email where she talked about the time we had sex! A facebook message including a winky face emoji! I rest my case, here the evidence stands!
But sadly, we’re dealing in the court room of feelings, where logic doesn’t rule and arguments can be thrown out in favor of emotions.
I think being friendzoned leads men (okay…people) into a frenzy of wait, so what is real? How can I trust my judgement of who likes me?
So maybe the true crime in friendzoning someone isn’t that you’re denying them sex - it’s that you’re playing with their perception. You gave them the inclination that you were interested, and then you took it away. And for people who are in relationships that haven’t had sex yet - the inclination is the sweetest thing that exists in the relationship.
But, maybe I’ve got it all wrong. I am a woman, after all, so maybe I’m valuing sex as something far less important than a man would.
At any rate…that was what all went through my mind after stalking my ex’s Facebook page. Maybe the moral of the story here is to stop checking up on your exes virtually…but we all already do that, and could never let go of the habit.
I have to admit, I think after all this pondering I’m still left in a state of I don’t know what the answer is…which is a pretty permanent state for me. I actually think I live in it. I have residency here haha.
Why do you think people lead other people on? Let me know here! I know the typical answers that come to mind are for ego, or self-gain, or selfish reasons…but I’d optimistically like to think that no one wants to lead, or be led on, and maybe if we got down to the bottom of it together, we could save a lot of people from going through this.
Look at this, me trying to be a hero on a Wednesday afternoon haha. But honestly, I am curious so let me know!
And in the meantime, I’m going to try and work on toning down my flirting.